For 18 years, I lived under my parents’ roof and followed their rules: no shoes in the house, only ask to go out when your room is clean, don’t stand on the couch – rules that I felt were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. As I grew older, I longed for the day of freedom when I would leave for college, and now, that day has finally come, accompanied by an abundance of free UF T-shirts and clubs trying to thrust flyers in my hands everywhere I go.
I’ve long imagined packing up my belongings and putting together the perfect Pinterest-worthy dorm complete with hanging Christmas lights and Polaroid photos. Although, I fantasized about the perfect college experience, I didn’t account for the reality of it all, especially move-in day.
As we pulled up into the offloading area behind UF’s Jennings Hall, I quietly fixed my hair in the car because you never know when you might meet your future best friend or the love of your life, right? However, my small attempt at looking presentable was to little avail as my parents and I started moving boxes from our van to the creaky little carts provided by move-in staff.
Two boxes in, beads of sweat began forming across my forehead and I soon developed a heavy sweat-stache. My hair started frizzing and sticking to my face as I struggled to transport several suitcases of winter clothes (because you never know when Florida will be hit be a snowstorm) up four flights of stairs. I had envisioned that I would arrive on campus flawlessly as if I were in some cheesy teen movie; walking in slow motion, flipping my hair and stopping to wave at every person I knew. Instead, my back ached and my younger brother proved to be a major annoyance as he followed me around making weird noises.
Maintaining a positive attitude, I thought, It’s still early in the day. There’s still time to make my first college experience perfect. I headed up to my room to begin unpacking and setting up my woman cave. Of course, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, which soon became my motto for college life upon realizing that I didn’t bring enough hangers for my clothes and that I totally left all my picture frames at home. Not to mention, I saw a cockroach in the communal bathroom and had an awkward encounter with a friend where I responded to “Hi Alex” with an enthusiastic “I’m good!” I screamed internally because I, like this move-in day, sucked.
Despite how my dorm room wasn’t complete without the frames that I had carefully planned positions for, I was relieved when it was set up (close enough). That meant my parents would finally leave and I would receive that long awaited freedom from authority.
They stood in the doorway, surveying my room and me one last time and opened their arms for a hug. At that moment, I completely lost all sense of independence and composure. Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to quickly wipe them away from my parents’ sight, but they already saw. They were tearing up, too.
In those few seconds, I felt like I matured a few years. High school graduate Alex was so ready to fly free from her parents’ nest, but college freshman Alex realized how much she would actually miss them. Our separation wasn’t perfect at all; in fact, it was snot-filled and emotional. Thinking back, I regret sassing them in the car ride up to college and wish I had instead let them repeat for the thousandth time that safety is my first priority and that I shouldn’t walk alone at night.
Since that move-in day of hell, I’ve slowly graduated from perfectionist to optimist. I know that these next four years won’t be perfect, but they will be real, and that’s what matters.